Gen Mirza Aslam Beg
Wednesday, February 16, 2011 – The revolution has crossed the first mile stone, overcoming the legacy of old and new colonialism, yet there are more milestones to be crossed to reach the goal of freedom, democracy and empowerment. A grim struggle lies ahead.
Thirty-two years back, on this day the eleventh of February, Iranians snatched power from Shah of Iran – a staunch ally of America and consolidated the revolution under the leadership of Imam Khomeini. On this day, the eleventh of February, the Egyptians, after eighteen days of siege, brought Mubarak down – a staunch American ally, yet power remains transferred into the hands of the military and Mubarak prefers to stay on the Egyptian soil at the Red Sea resort of Sharmal Sheikh. How power will be transferred to the people, is the real issue, which can be analysed in the light of the conspiracies which were hatched to destroy the Iranian revolution.
The pro-American political forces, such as the Fidaeen-e-Khalq and others, were the main instruments in the hands of the conspirators, who eliminated over seventy top revolutionary leaders of Iran in one act of terror bombing. Efforts were made to create divisions in the ranks and file of the revolutionaries. Ultimately the Americans forced Saddam Hussain to invade Iran, hoping that “the revolution would be destroyed and both Iran and Iraq would kill each other.” But on the contrary, the invasion helped Iran consolidate the revolution.
With power handed over to the military and Mubarak allowed to stay in the country, there is a greater risk of confrontationwith the masses, demanding full transfer of power. Thus, “Behind this unified hierarchical façade contradictory influences are at work, posing serious threats to national security.” And no doubt, people are talking about the Foreign Agenda “of dismantling the nation into sectarian components led towards infighting and tightening the siege and imposition of a peaceful solution with Israel.” The military have deep vested interests, as they had remained hand and glove with Mubarak, to build vast businesses, linked with big businesses in United States and Egypt. It would be extremely difficult for the military to hand over such privileges and power for the sake of the revolution. And they also know that the revolutionaries, as they gain full power and authority, would make the armed forces, including Mubarak, accountable for their past misdeeds. The Americans, therefore also would prefer the military to retain/share power to protect their interests and the interests of those who made hay during Mubarak’s regime. Such conflict of interests therefore would lead to deeper conspiracy, to block the process of transfer of power. Therefore, the very first step, military has taken is, abrogation of the constitution; dissolution of the assembly and the promise for holding of elections in September 2011. These are hollow promises and delaying tactics, similar to General Zia’s promise of elections in ninety days. The Egyptians won’t take it, and the protests will continue, to press for their demands.
The revolution has not been able to throw up any towering personality like Imam Khomeini of Iran, who could lead and maintain unity of the movement. Moreover, the revolutionaries, under Muslim Brotherhood, hold powerful elements with diverse views and vision of life. There is a strong element of Jehadis and militants who had been confronting Mubarak for the last three decades, under the leaders with regional status only. Side by side, there are a considerable number of youth amongst them, holding liberal and moderate views on life and belong to the new cyber generation, nationalist in outlook, having respect for democracy and freedom. Despite these differences of views, they stood as one, under the banner of Muslim Brotherhood and won the first battle of freedom. What is going to follow now is a struggle for power, which will provide enough space to the conspirators to accentuate the differences between the militants and the moderates. And if they succeed, it would help the military to retain power to safeguard their interests and the interests of others, they have been associated with, for the last five decades. The success of the revolution therefore, depends on their ability to force the armed forces for early transfer of power and subordination to the civil authority. Saddam helped Iran consolidate the revolution, but there is no Saddam around to help Egypt consolidate the revolution.
The Americans and their allies are allergic to Islamists coming to power. Hammas won the fair and free elections in Palestine, but was not allowed to form the government and the Israelis now are facing the consequences. Similarly, the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, who fought the war to expel the Soviets, were not allowed to form the government and were pushed into a contrived civil war. And now, as they emerge as the winner, efforts are afoot, to deny them due share in power. This obsession, in fact has been the cause of Americans defeat in Afghanistan. They have lost the war in Afghanistan but find it difficult to rationalize the defeat, without hurting their ego and pride of a super power.
If the Americans want democracy and rule of law in Egypt, they must pay heed to the demands of the revolutionaries: release political prisoners; lift emergency; abolish state security apparatus and start negotiations for transfer of power. These are fair demands, to help Brotherhood to form the government, with Armed Forces accepting a subordinating role as the military in Pakistan has accepted its role and is no more willing to play the American game.
Intrigues and manipulations would damage the cause of revolution and the emerging process of democracy and rule of law. Let the people of Egypt determine the course of freedom and democracy, in the manner, the people of Pakistan, having found democracy and are now fighting corruption and bad governance. This is our struggle for democracy. Struggle brings the best in the nation, in the worst of times and that is the struggle which lies ahead for the people of Egypt.
—The writer is former Chief of Army Staff. Pakistan